Let's Start Taking God Seriously
This Spring a friend and I have been spending several hours at a stretch, several times a week, reading and discussing the Bible, especially the Old Testament. It did not take us very long to see that our popular ideas and notions about God were way out of bounds in many ways. For example, we Americans are not God's chosen people, the vast majority of us will not go to heaven when we die. God does not look down in favor on our much-touted, self-aggrandizing way of life. There really is a Day of Judgment coming soon and it won't be pretty for those who have failed to take God seriously. There is lots of good news in the Bible, great news in fact. God is a living, communicating Being. He asks us to know Him and to respond to Him. This is actually a tall order asking from us our whole selves. American "Christians" have been slipping and sliding downhill for a long time now--many years--and much-deserved judgment upon our nation has begun in earnest.
Judgments against Israel in the Old Testament
The prophet Ezekiel, and some thousands of his countrymen, were taken captive from Jerusalem to a detainees' camp outside of Babylon in 597 BC. This was eleven years before Babylon's King Nebuchadnezzar completely destroyed the city of Jerusalem in 586. Meanwhile, the prophet Jeremiah remained behind in Jerusalem warning all those remaining there that Babylon was actually their safe refuge for the next 70 years. Israel was to be exiled by God for multiple failures of disobedience. God warned Ezekiel ahead of time that the people and their elders would not listen to their legitimate leaders.
"Then He [God] said to me: “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them. For you are not sent to a people of unfamiliar speech and of hard language, but to the house of Israel, not to many people of unfamiliar speech and of hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, had I sent you to them, they would have listened to you. But the house of Israel will not listen to you, because they will not listen to Me; for all the house of Israel are impudent and hard-hearted." (Ezekiel 3:4-7)
The exiles in Jerusalem believed that Jerusalem could never be destroyed; that their refuge in Babylon would be only a short-term minor inconvenience. Eleven years later Jerusalem was destroyed with horrendous loss of life and horrific suffering. The majority of the Jews who heeded the Lord and did escape to Babylon, then adapted to luxury living in Babylon, continuing to ignore their prophets. After the Fall of Jerusalem Ezekiel and Jeremiah each wrote about ongoing history and the long-term place of Israel in God's plans. Each prophet was able to write amazing predictions describing the future of the remnant of Israel--prophecies that are now coming true in the Middle East, 2600 years after the fact.
In his day, Ezekiel was considered a popular "entertainer." He was treated in a cavalier fashion by his people as if he had been sent to entertain, not to save.
“As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.’' So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. “Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them. And when this comes to pass--surely it will come--then they will know that a prophet has been among them.” (Ezekiel 33:30-33)
Ezekiel, and the abductees with him, stayed at a prison camp located along a canal that branched from the River Euphrates. On and off, over a dozen years, the elders of Israel dropped in for an occasional "elders' meeting" with Ezekiel at his "house" in Babylon. Ezekiel took notes of the third of these meetings; they are recorded in Chapter 20. This one paragraph, Ezekiel 20, raises all sorts of questions about Israel's long-lasting history with their God. It would seem from what is recorded that Israel was always in a "continuous failure" mode with their God. The nation as a whole apparently is never depicted as the loving, responding wife of Yahweh.
Yahweh begins by speaking through Ezekiel about Israel's history since they were slaves in Egypt, about 1500 BC.
It came to pass in the seventh year, in the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month, (591 BC) that certain of the elders of Israel came to inquire of the LORD, and sat before me (Ezekiel). Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Have you come to inquire of Me? As I live,” says the Lord GOD, “I will not be inquired of by you.”’ “Will you judge them, son of man, will you judge them? Then make known to them the abominations of their fathers. “Say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “On the day when I chose Israel and raised My hand in an oath to the descendants of the house of Jacob, and made Myself known to them in the land of Egypt, I raised My hand in an oath to them, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God.’ “On that day I raised My hand in an oath to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, ‘flowing with milk and honey,’ the glory of all lands. “Then I said to them, ‘Each of you, throw away the abominations which are before his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.'"
“But they rebelled against Me and would not obey Me. They did not all cast away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt.
Then I [God] said, ‘I will pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.’ “But I acted for My name’s sake, that it should not be profaned before the Gentiles among whom they were, in whose sight I had made Myself known to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt. “Therefore I made them go out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. And I gave them My statutes and showed them My judgments, ‘which, if a man does, he shall live by them.’ Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them."
“Yet the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness; they did not walk in My statutes; they despised My judgments, ‘which, if a man does, he shall live by them’; and they greatly defiled My Sabbaths."
"Then I said I would pour out My fury on them in the wilderness, to consume them. But I acted for My name’s sake, that it should not be profaned before the Gentiles, in whose sight I had brought them out. So I also raised My hand in an oath to them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, ‘flowing with milk and honey,’ the glory of all lands because they despised My judgments and did not walk in My statutes, but profaned My Sabbaths; for their heart went after their idols. Nevertheless My eye spared them from destruction. I did not make an end of them in the wilderness. But I said to their children in the wilderness, ‘Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers, nor observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols. I am the LORD your God: Walk in My statutes, keep My judgments, and do them; hallow My Sabbaths, and they will be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the LORD your God.’"
“Notwithstanding, the children rebelled against Me; they did not walk in My statutes, and were not careful to observe My judgments, ‘which, if a man does, he shall live by them’; but they profaned My Sabbaths. Then I said I would pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them in the wilderness. Nevertheless I withdrew My hand and acted for My name’s sake, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the Gentiles, in whose sight I had brought them out. Also I raised My hand in an oath to those in the wilderness, that I would scatter them among the Gentiles and disperse them throughout the countries, because they had not executed My judgments, but had despised My statutes, profaned My Sabbaths, and their eyes were fixed on their fathers’ idols. Therefore I also gave them up to statutes that were not good, and judgments by which they could not live; and I pronounced them unclean because of their ritual gifts, in that they caused all their firstborn to pass through the fire (child-sacrifice), that I might make them desolate and that they might know that I am the LORD.”
“Therefore, son of man, speak to the house of Israel, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: In this too your fathers have blasphemed Me, by being unfaithful to Me.'" “When I brought them into the land concerning which I had raised My hand in an oath to give them, and they saw all the high hills and all the thick trees, there they offered their sacrifices and provoked Me with their offerings. There they also sent up their sweet aroma and poured out their drink offerings. Then I said to them, ‘What is this high place to which you go?’ So its name is called Bamah to this day.” “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: Are you defiling yourselves in the manner of your fathers, and committing harlotry according to their abominations? For when you offer your gifts and make your sons pass through the fire, you defile yourselves with all your idols, even to this day. So shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel?' As I live, says the Lord GOD, “I will not be inquired of by you. “What you have in your mind shall never be, when you say, ‘We will be like the Gentiles, like the families in other countries, serving wood and stone.'"
Over the span of Israel's history--which Ezekiel discussed with the elders that night (covering about 900 years) the Lord reminded the elders of Israel at Babylon that He had considered destroying His people three times. Ironically, Ezekiel was just then speaking to the remnant in Babylon. A few hundred miles to the West, terrible judgment was ready to fall on Jerusalem from the armies of Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon.
Was God's saving help not efficacious at any point along their journey? The answer of course is that the nation of Israel did fail badly in realizing the high calling and purpose God had them for.
But, also a "remnant," a small number, were saved. This is the true history of God's people, whether Jew or Christian.
In summary, while in Egypt, where they were slaves for 400+ years, the people of Israel no longer benefitted from Joseph’s legacy and the good favor of Joseph's pharaoh. The new Pharaoh became harsh with the Israelites, forcing them into hard slavery as his work force and restricting their birth rate by murdering their sons as they were born. (Exodus 1:8-22)
As the pressure on Israel in Egypt increased, the Israelites resorted at last to prayer. Eighty years later, God's appointed deliverer, Moses, was ready to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt. Rather than destroying the nation of Israel as He had seriously considered, the Lord pitied Israel at least enough to bring them out from Egypt and into the wilderness. At the time, the nation of nearly 3 million people had enough faith that God was able to lead them under Moses out of bondage into the wilderness of Sinai. "All" of Israel following Moses crossed the Red Sea and headed East for the Promised Land searching for a better life. The Egyptians helped with generous gifts of gold and silver.
But not much later, at Mt Sinai, Moses was in a planning meeting with God atop Mt Sinai. Down below the people became bored and restless and persuaded their high priest, Aaron, the brother of Moses, to build them a golden calf to remind them of Egypt. It was not a major effort for them to host a lavish, pagan party modeled about the religious events they had witnessed in Egypt. It was surely not necessary to carry boxes of statues and amulets, ornaments and charms the Egyptians had given them as a farewell gift. These gifts from the Egyptians, the people of Israel melted down readily to be made in a Golden Calf.
Coming down from Mt. Sinai, where he had received the Law from the hand of God, Moses was horrified to see the gross idolatry the people of Israel had embraced, culminating in the adulation and worship of the Golden Calf. It was only the intercession of Moses at that time which caused God to spare Israel after such open denial of their Holy God (See Exodus 32). [On this solemn occasion Moses serves as a type of Christ as Intercessor. Intercession as the word is used in the Bible means that one righteous man chooses to stand alone pleading with his life to a Holy God on behalf of a sinful people].
This is now the second occasion God "changed his mind" and did not destroy Israel altogether after they had refused all of God's attempts to free them from their persistent idolatry.
Idolatry is about what we love in our hearts! False worship varies from one culture to another, from country to country, but always reflect our human preference for idols. Repeatedly we all choose to follow false gods rather than obeying our Creator who can then set us free to move into true fulfillment, wholeness of being, and everlasting life. Our idols can be actual objects such as cars, houses, yachts and summer cabins or they can be amplified hungers and cravings for the lusts and pleasures on this world. We can acquire idolatrous ways when we leave the truth we have been taught and follow the axioms and guidelines of the fallen world-system we live in. We are creatures of habit and easily adapt to the idolatries of the culture we live in. Idolatry is not merely a question of what we believe in our minds, but where we attach our emotions and affections at a deeper level--in the heart. Over and over again the God of the whole world speaks to all peoples and nations concerning our deep-seated rebellion against His rule and our fatal attraction towards the false and the counterfeit. The problem goes to the inner core of all of our lives.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)
[Jesus said], “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men--the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. “For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ “But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban”--’ (that is, a gift to God),“then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, “making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.” When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them,
“Hear Me, everyone, and understand: “There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!” When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, “because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, “thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. “All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” (Mark 7:1-23)
The howling barren wilderness of the Sinai did not provide Israel with a whole new set of stone or wooden idols to be added to the old gods from Egypt, the real idolatry was in the heart the whole time and quite invisible. Later on when finally dwelling in the promised land, Israel would become exposed to the pagan gods of the other nations externally as well as internally. The wonderfully crafted tabernacle of Moses, the sacred vessels, the priesthood, the sacrifices and the yearly religious calendar were all in place throughout the 40 years of wilderness in the wilderness. There was ample opportunity for Israel to discover what God is like as a Person and then to follow Him into a life of liberty and freedom. The austerity enforced on God's people by the circumstances of living in the wilderness did not diminish the people's idolatry, it was ready to break forth repeatedly.
Lest anyone reading this claims that this situation with regard to Israel’s long-term national idolatry does not carry over for us to learn from, or to be relevant to the church, we have the Apostle Paul's words which speak otherwise:
"Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry." (1 Corinthians 10:1-14)
The Apostle Paul in Romans 1 puts together a picture of mankind as we are when we were born-- in Adam. Paul describes the downhill path of mankind over time regardless of national background, sex, genetic traits, education, or family upbringing. Thus, the failure of the church which Jesus started follows a downhill course similar to Israel's "continuous failure" to be what God intended us to be. The church has now failed, as Israel failed. The Apostle Paul was perfectly correct:
“There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” “Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit”; “The poison of asps is under their lips”; “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin." (Romans 3:10-20)
After showing us that the creation itself, and our hearts (i.e., our innermost natures), have clearly reveal our Creator's existence, power and purpose, Paul shows that we were originally created to be ruled from within, from the heart -- by one God, the God who built the universe and who created each one of us. When running according to design, the human "machine" has a living spirit, an ego or "self"-- able to live in close partnership with God the Holy Spirit.
The "heart" -- as the word is used in the Bible -- describes the center of our identity and personhood. Our human spirit and God the Holy Spirit are supposed to be at all times ruling together within our hearts. The Fall of Man severed our relationship with God and left us with most of our protection gone. The passage above, (Romans 3:10-20) is all about the collapse of the entire social order of man. This in turn has come about because of man's rejection of God's rule within our hearts. Usually idols are a person or thing, a doctrine or ideal, a love, a spouse, a friendship that has become most important to the individual than God. At this early stage of "falling" away from God, the individual has violated the first two commandments in the Law of Moses. Because idolatry never satisfies, we quickly add more love idols in our hearts and affections.
Yet, in spite of so much failure, one would think that 800 years of continuous history from Moses to Ezekiel would have drawn the people of Israel to change their ways eventually -- but this did not happen. A small remnant in each generation of Israel evidently accepted the Lord's terms to living in harmony with their God, but the majority ignored this extra generous, ultra-gracious Lord. Thankfully there has always been a godly remnant. No one of us needs to be lost, all sinners are welcome in the family of God. "...He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25)
Ezekiel's wife died on the day Jerusalem fell, and most of the remaining inhabitants in the City were slain by Nebuchadnezzar. When the news of the demise of Jerusalem reached the exiles in Babylon weeks later, the exiles were forced to give up all hope of returning to their beloved city.
When Jerusalem fell, Ezekiel was released from God's tight restrictions of his life-style. He was given the assignment of writing large sections about the future of Israel. (Ezekiel 25ff). The entire nation of Israel was to be raised from the dead according to the prophet's vision of the Valley of Dry Bones. Messiah would come to be their true Shepherd and King. The nations of the world would be all judged thoroughly. Messiah's return would provoke a terrible war which will draw all nations together against Jerusalem. Messiah will then Himself build a Fourth Temple, too large for the present Temple Site. At last mankind will enjoy justice and peace mediated from Jerusalem.
Ezekiel died in Babylon after many more years of faithful service to God in Babylon. While reading the scroll of Jeremiah, Daniel the prophet realized that God intended to leave His people in Babylon only 70 years. In a powerful moving prayer, Daniel asked that the Jews be allowed to return to Jerusalem. They came in small numbers, first rebuilding the Temple, then erecting walls around the city. They came with a legitimate king and priest. The return from the Exile was another sure sign of the God who keeps His promises.
Regarding events that are yet future for us, the God of Israel speaking said this:
“And you, son of man, prophesy to the mountains of Israel, and say, ‘O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the LORD! ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because the enemy has said of you, ‘Aha! The ancient heights have become our possession,’”’ “therefore prophesy, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because they made you desolate and swallowed you up on every side, so that you became the possession of the rest of the nations, and you are taken up by the lips of talkers and slandered by the people”-- ‘therefore, O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD! Thus says the Lord GOD to the mountains, the hills, the rivers, the valleys, the desolate wastes, and the cities that have been forsaken, which became plunder and mockery to the rest of the nations all around-- ‘therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Surely I have spoken in My burning jealousy against the rest of the nations and against all Edom, who gave My land to themselves as a possession, with whole-hearted joy and spiteful minds, in order to plunder its open country.”’ “Therefore prophesy concerning the land of Israel, and say to the mountains, the hills, the rivers, and the valleys, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I have spoken in My jealousy and My fury, because you have borne the shame of the nations.” ‘Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “I have raised My hand in an oath that surely the nations that are around you shall bear their own shame. “But you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel, for they are about to come. “For indeed I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown. “I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, all of it; and the cities shall be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt. “I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bear young; I will make you inhabited as in former times, and do better for you than at your beginnings. Then you shall know that I am the LORD. “Yes, I will cause men to walk on you, My people Israel; they shall take possession of you, and you shall be their inheritance; no more shall you bereave them of children.”
‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because they say to you, ‘You devour men and bereave your nation of children,’ “therefore you shall devour men no more, nor bereave your nation anymore,” says the Lord GOD. “Nor will I let you hear the taunts of the nations anymore, nor bear the reproach of the peoples anymore, nor shall you cause your nation to stumble anymore,” says the Lord GOD.’” Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying: “Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own ways and deeds; to Me their way was like the uncleanness of a woman in her customary impurity. “Therefore I poured out My fury on them for the blood they had shed on the land, and for their idols with which they had defiled it. “So I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed throughout the countries; I judged them according to their ways and their deeds. “When they came to the nations, wherever they went, they profaned My holy name--when they said of them, ‘These are the people of the LORD, and yet they have gone out of His land.’ “But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations wherever they went. “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. “And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD,” says the Lord GOD, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes. “For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land.
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. “Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. “I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. I will call for the grain and multiply it, and bring no famine upon you. “And I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields, so that you need never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations. “Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations.
“Not for your sake do I do this,” says the Lord GOD, “let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel!” ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will also enable you to dwell in the cities, and the ruins shall be rebuilt. “The desolate land shall be tilled instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass by. “So they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the wasted, desolate, and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ “Then the nations which are left all around you shall know that I, the LORD, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted what was desolate. I, the LORD, have spoken it, and I will do it.” ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “I will also let the house of Israel inquire of Me to do this for them: I will increase their men like a flock. “Like a flock offered as holy sacrifices, like the flock at Jerusalem on its feast days, so shall the ruined cities be filled with flocks of men. Then they shall know that I am the LORD.”’” (Ezekiel 36)
The message of the Bible has been mostly ignored or twisted down through the centuries. Today's church, after 2000 years, is in failure mode for the most part, as Israel was after 1500 years of living under the Old Covenant. As mentioned in a previous newsletter, the size of the Christian "remnant" in our nation today is perhaps only 1%.
Time is fast running out for all varieties of sinners and for all disobedient communities, churches, nations. Eventually God can only act in perfect justice. See Notes on Repentance, http://ldolphin.org/repent.html .
As we have seen, Ezekiel reminded of four specific times (one is yet future) in the national life of Israel, when Yahweh's anger was so exhausted that He tells us He felt like destroying the nation completely. His says that His restraint was to safeguard His own name and reputation.
First God hates hypocrisy (see, Paint or Get off the Ladder, Isaiah 58, http://ldolphin.org/isaiah58.html ). Second, it is very dangerous for us to call ourselves "Christian" if we never enter into a personal relationship with the God of Israel, obeying and following Him you the rest of our lives. We misrepresent God when our life-styles do not match what we say we believe. Third, since only a tiny few professing Christians really are genuine, we should not follow the moral standards of the majority (even in the best of churches). We should associate with members of the remnant. (The remnant in our day are called "overcomers" in the letters of Jesus to the Seven Churches of the book of Revelation, see The Concept of the Remnant, http://ldolphin.org/Remn.html).
God is exceedingly patient. The Bible calls this God's long suffering love. He is very reluctant to judge anyone. He always prefers to heal, restore and save. In fact, before creating our world the Persons of the Godhead worked out all the details necessary so that a Holy God could save sinful men and still be just and fair. God has done all the work, His offer of love and restoration is still offered to us at this late hour.
"For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no-one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:14-21)
Book to Read: Once any of us gets serious about knowing God we need to quickly become acquainted with the nature of the Christian life as lived by Jesus, not by our acting in self-interest. This month may I recommend Mark Driscoll's sermons series on suffering built upon the Apostle Peter's First and Second Epistles, (http://www.marshillchurch.org/media/trial/suffering-to-worship ). There are many fine sermons on this web site. Note that Mars Hill Church (Seattle) is not the same as the Mars Hills church pastored by Ron Bell.
Other: I am currently teaching a series in Genesis from Noah to Moses, Genesis 12-50, at my home church, Peninsula Bible Church, Palo Alto, California. I'll put the mp3 audio files on my web site Library page, http://ldolphin.org/genesis2/ .
Book: I hope you like the new book Ron Graff and I have written, "Connecting the Dots: A Handbook on Bible Prophecy," http://bible-prophecy.com/connecting/
Finances: If you are able to invest in my ministry, I'd be most grateful. My last paying job with a regular monthly paycheck was actually back in the Fall of 1988. In many amazing ways God has provided ever since with perfect fidelity. I have Social Security Income, and a small retirement check but very high (and increasing) basic expenses living as here in Silicon Valley, California. I owe a sizeable balance on last year's income tax. My income the past two months has been down by about $1500 per month! You may send contributions directly to my PayPal account. These PayPal contributions are tax free to me, though not to you. The Blue Letter Bible ministry has graciously provided a channel for tax-deductible donations. If you would like a tax receipt, send your check to Blue Letter Bible ATTN: Lambert Dolphin Ministries (LDM), 29 Rancho Circle, Lake Forest, CA 92630 (Please make your check out to "Blue Letter Bible" and mark "LDM" in the memo field of your check). Thank you very much!
Health: I have been feeling much better so far this year. My healing has all been of God--I should have died long ago as close friends of mine can testify. Have you ever noticed the wonderful promise about health given in Romans 8 to all believers?
"And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you (new life here and now). Therefore, brethren, we are debtors--not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." (Romans 8:11-14)
Contacting me: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: http://ldolphin.org, Apologetics and Q&A:, http://paracleteforum.org; Previous newsletters, http://ldolphin.org/news. While I try to answer all my email, I am not very good at returning phone calls.
Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written: “For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles, And sing to Your name.” And again he says: “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people!” And again: “Praise the LORD, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples!” And again, Isaiah says: “There shall be a root of Jesse; And He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, In Him the Gentiles shall hope.” Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:8-13)
June 4, 2011